July 21 [O.S. July 11], 1653[Note 1]
Wenham, Massachusetts Bay Colony
|Died||July 29 [O.S. July 19], 1692 (aged 39)
Salem Village, Province of Massachusetts Bay
|Cause of death||Execution by hanging|
|Known for||Convicted of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials|
Sarah Good (July 21 [O.S. July 11], 1653 – July 29 [O.S. July 19], 1692)[Note 1] was one of the first three women to be accused of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials, which occurred in 1692 in colonial Massachusetts.
Sarah Good was born Sarah Solart in Wenham, Massachusetts Bay Colony to John and Elizabeth Solart. Her father was prosperous, but she and her sisters never received their inheritance when he died in 1672. Sarah first married Daniel Poole who was a laborer and who died in 1682. Sarah then married William Good. The debt that she had after Daniel died became the responsibility of William. Because they could not handle the debt, Sarah and William were "reduced to begging work, food, and shelter from their neighbors" and by 1692 were homeless.
Sarah was described by the people of Salem as being filthy, bad-tempered, and strangely detached from the rest of the village. She was often associated with the death of residents' livestock and would wander door to door, asking for charity. If the resident refused, Good would walk away muttering under her breath. Although she maintained at the trial that she was only saying the Ten Commandments, those who turned her away would later claim she was chanting curses in revenge. When she was asked to say the Commandments at her trial, she could not recite a single one.
Good was accused of witchcraft on March 6, 1692 [O.S. February 25, 1691],[Note 1] when Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Parris, related to the Reverend Samuel Parris, claimed to be bewitched under her hand. The young girls asserted they had been bitten, pinched, and otherwise abused. They would have fits in which their bodies would appear to involuntarily convulse, their eyes rolling into the back of their heads and their mouths hanging open. When the Rev. Samuel Parris asked “Who torments you?” the girls eventually shouted out the names of three townspeople: Tituba, Sarah Osborne, and Sarah Good.
Theories behind the accusations
Good was of a lower economic status, reduced to poverty due to the debt of her father. Accusers at the trials, especially in the trial of Sarah Good, often cited jealousy and envy as explanations for witches' discontent and anger. Her dependency on neighbors and others perpetuated suspicions of Good, and other dependent women like Good, that they were practicing witchcraft. Another theory behind the accusations was explained by her relationship with her husband and her neighbors. William Good claimed he feared that his wife was a witch due to “her bad carriage to him”. She was accused by her neighbors because she challenged Puritan values. She was accused of possessing two women; the afflictions were often sporadic and inexplicable.
On March 25, 1692 [O.S. March 15, 1691],[Note 1] Good was tried for witchcraft. She was accused of rejecting the puritanical expectations of self-control and discipline when she chose to torment and “scorn [children] instead of leading them towards the path of salvation". When she was brought in, the accusers immediately began to rock back and forth and moan, seemingly in response to Good’s presence. Later on in the trial, one of the accusers fell into a fit. When it had stopped, she claimed Good had attacked her with a knife; she even produced a portion of it, stating the weapon had been broken during the alleged assault. However, upon hearing this statement, a young townsman stood and told the court the piece had broken off his own knife the day before, and that the girl had witnessed it. He then revealed the other half, proving his story. After hearing this, the judge simply scolded the girl for exaggerating what he believed to be the truth.
Although both Good and Sarah Osborne denied the allegations against them, Tituba admitted to being the "Devil's servant." She stated that a tall man dressed all in black came to them, demanding they sign their names in a great book. Although initially refusing, Tituba said, she eventually wrote her name, after Good and Osborne forced her to. There were six other names in the book as well but were not visible to her. She also said that Good had ordered her cat to attack Elizabeth Hubbard, causing the scratches and bite marks on the girl's body. She spoke of seeing Good with black and yellow birds surrounding her, and that Good had also sent these animals to harm the girls. When the girls began to have another fit, Tituba claimed she could see a yellow bird in Good’s right hand. The young accusers agreed.
When Good was allowed the chance to defend herself in front of the twelve jurors in the Salem Village meeting house, she argued her innocence, proclaiming Tituba and Osborne as the real witches. In the end, however, Good was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death. On July 29 [O.S. July 19], 1692,[Note 1] Sarah Good was hanged along with four other women convicted of witchcraft. While the other four quietly awaited execution, Good firmly proclaimed her innocence. Rev. Nicholas Noyes was persistent, but unsuccessful, in his attempts to force Good to confess. When she was claimed guilty by the judges especially Nicholas Noyes, she yelled out, "I'm no more a witch than you are a wizard, take my life and God will give you blood to drink."
Good was pregnant at the time of her arrest and gave birth to an infant in her cell in the jail in Ipswich. The infant died before her mother was hanged.
- Dorothy Good, Sarah Good's four-year-old daughter, who became the youngest to be jailed on charges of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials
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- Death Warrant for Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth How and Sarah Wilds, Boston Public Library Witchcraft Documents.
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